Friday, September 4, 2009

Game 135: The Long Road

Baseball's regular season is a long road. With the completion of game 135 tonight exactly five sixths of that road will be in the Yankees' rearview mirror. Also in the Yankees' rearview mirror is the entirety of the American League. They hold a 10.5 game lead on a playoff spot, a 7.5 game lead in the AL East, and 7 game lead for home field.

As such, the Yankees have the luxury of not having to put the pedal to the floor heading down the stretch. They didn't have to panic and make a deal for a brand name fifth starter at either trade deadline. They don't have to rush Sergio Mitre back after he took a liner off his arm last Saturday. They don't have to trot Mariano Rivera out to the mound while his groin is bothering him. They don't have to bend their already flexible rules as it pertains to Joba Chamberlain's innings and push him because they need to win games.

All of those factors will be in play tonight. Chad Gaudin, the swingman pitcher the Yankees acquired in place of a bigger named starter, spot started in place of Mitre last night and required 5.1 innings of relief from the bullpen. Mitre will start Sunday, on seven days rest and having pitched six innings just once in seven starts this year. Rivera, who did not throw his scheduled bullpen today, will be unavailable for the third consecutive game. And Joba Chamberlain will make his second consecutive start on regular rest but with a strict pitch and inning limit.

Last Sunday, Chamberlain was on a 50 pitch or 3 inning limit. He got through three on just 35 pitches. I haven't seen it posted anywhere yet, but I'd imagine that he'd be capped at about 60 pitches or 4 innings today.

The fact the Yankees even considered that Joba would reach 50 pitches prior to completing three innings speaks to how poorly he's pitched of late. Since throwing eight shutout innings against Tampa Bay on July 29th, Joba has made five starts to the tune of an 8.22 ERA and 2.00 WHIP. Opponents are batting .323/.414./500 off him during that time and he's walking a Bruney-esque 5.87 per nine. He's averaged 18.78 pitches per IP during that stretch, so a three inning start tonight is a distinct possibility. Yet the delusionary Joba still insists he's pitching well (see the 5:50 update). I'm hopeful that tonight he'll turn in a performance that a more discerning observer would deem acceptable.

Either way, the Yankees will likely need four to six innings from the bullpen tonight. With Gaudin having started last night, Mitre going Sunday, and Alfredo Aceves having thrown 2.1 innings last night, they're without their usual long relief options. My guess is that Mark Melancon will follow Joba for two or three innings, then it's anyone guess from there. With Mo being day-to-day they'll likely not use Phil Hughes for more than an inning. Thankfully even with Mo and Alf presumably unavailable, they'll still have nine men in the bullpen due to September call-ups, and six of them didn't pitch last night. It should be enough to get them through the weekend.

As for the Blue Jays, they'll also send a struggling starter to the mound. Roy Halladay was one of the big name starters the Yankees were rumored to be pursuing at the deadline. The Jays ended up overplaying their hand and held on to Halladay. A Cy Young candidate at the deadline, Halladay has been horseshit since, going 2-4 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP since, as opponents are OPSing .860 off him. One of those losses came against the Yanks on August 4th, his second straight poor start against the Yankees. They'll look to hang another "L" on him tonight.

Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher get the night off, replaced by Ramiro Pena and Eric Hinske respectively. Johnny Damon slides up to the leadoff spot, and Hinske, interestingly, bats second.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the Yankees had a nine game winning streak going. I wrote this preview, featuring "Once" from Pearl Jam. The Yankees lost that night.

Heading into Fourth of July weekend, the Yankees had a seven game winning streak going. I wrote this preview, featuring "State of Love and Trust" from Pearl Jam. The Yankees lost that night.

Now we're heading into Labor Day weekend (or Labour Day for the Jays fans) and the Yankees have a seven game winning streak going. In an effort to prove how non-superstitious I am (or how stubborn and stupid I am), I'm going to roll the dice again.

"The Long Road" was originally written for Mirror Ball, the 1995 album from Fack Youk's favorite Canadian, Neil Young. Pearl Jam was his backing band for the album. "The Long Road" was one of two Eddie Vedder tunes that didn't make the final cut for the album, and were later included on Pearl Jam's EP Merkin Ball, considered a companion piece to Mirror Ball.

With the Yankees in Canada this weekend, hopefully this song's connection to the Canadian Young will bring a little better luck. And hopefully tonight Joba will pitch well, even if he cannot stay around for long. Either way, tonight's another step on the season's long road.

And I wished for so long,
I cannot stay,
All the precious moments,
I cannot stay,
It's not like wings have fallen,
I cannot stay,
Without you something's missing,
I cannot stay.


Clones! Our boy Youk was on the internet radio show of a certain ESPN-affiliated blowhard who I'm not going to name here. Since his site is behind a pay wall, he probably wouldn't take too kindly to me ripping the interview and posting it on this site, but I'm going to do it anyway. Just for you. So let's keep this between us, alright?

Some highlights:
  • If you don't already know whose radio show this is, he says his name about 4 seconds into the clip.

  • Youk addresses the Yankees' recent run of success at 3:53

  • They get to the Rick Porcello incident around the 5:00 mark. He claims that he "wasn't being selfish", he was just "making a stand for [him]self", which sounds kinda selfish.

  • The subject of David Wright's helmet pops up at 7:45 which leads Youk to say "I always say that 95% of the reason why people can't play baseball is because they're scared of the ball", which is kind of like saying that 95% of people can't play football because they are scared of getting tackled. Yeah, that and the minor ingredients of athleticism and genetic physical prowess. But you're right, Youk, that can't make up more than 5%. You're just so much braver than everyone else. Dick.

  • Youk refers to the fake Twitter feed that was pretending to be him at 12:40. I'm an idiot.

  • It's long but actually a pretty good interview so have a listen.

Odds And Ends

Hey there Fackers. We're in the homestretch heading towards the holiday weekend. Here's a few things to chew on before you punch that clock.
  • Today's the 16th anniversary of Jim Abbott "single-handedly" no-hitting the Indians (terrible joke, I know). With the Yankees in Toronto this weekend, it may be worth reminding our friend eyebleaf that 1993 was a happier time for the Jays. Much like the 1985 season that we talked about with Mike Pagliarulo, the 1993 Yankees spent the summer chasing the Blue Jays. The Yanks spent a record nineteen days tied for first with the Jays without ever being able to take sole possession of the lead. The Yanks would move into a tie for the final time the day after Abbott's no-no, but that would be as close as they got, as they faded down the stretch and finished seven games back. The Blue Jays won their second consecutive title when Joe Carter hit a Game 7 walk-off against Mitch Williams, and became the first team since the 1977-78 Yankees to go back-to-back.

    Still, the team finished the year at 88-74, good for the third best record in the American League during the final season of the Wild Card-less two division format. Interestingly, the Abbott no hitter against the Indians featured two teams on the rise, as the Yanks and Tribe would be the dominant forces in the AL for the remainder of the 1990s.
  • Speaking of the 1990s, Alfredo Aceves' win last night was his 10th of the year. All of them have come in relief. Alf's ten relief wins are the most by a Yankee since Lee Guetterman had 11 in 1990. How bad was that 1990 team that had the worst record in the AL and second worst in MLB? Guetterman, a set-up man, led the team in wins. The franchise record for wins by a reliever is 15, done by Luis Arroyo in 1961.
  • Derek Jeter on the other land, lost out to Kendry Morales as the American League Player of the Month, despite hitting .377/.403/.574 in August with 6 HR and 15 multi-hit games. This just serves as further evidence that Jeter is not the player he once was. (yet another bad pun).
  • As you may recall, Josh Towers spent a day with the Big Club last month before heading back to Scranton. With the bullpen having to work 5.1 innings last night, Joba Chamberlain starting today, Sergio Mitre Sunday, and a doubleheader Monday, Towers may be on his way back. He was pulled from his start at AAA last night after just two innings, and Chad Jennings reports that it was not injury related.

    Towers was DFA'd when he was sent out last time, so he'd have to be added back to the 40 man roster first. Kevin Cash, Anthony Claggett, Juan Miranda, and even Shelley Duncan are the only guys I think the organization would consider DFA'ing to make room. What is interesting however is that if they add Towers for the next few days, they likely won't need him beyond that, in which case they could DFA him again, opening up a spot to add Austin Jackson to the 40 man and call him up.

    That said, I doubt any of that will happen. The bullpen already has four extra arms with Mark Melancon, Edwar Ramirez, Mike Dunn, and Jonathan Albaladejo, who was recalled yesterday. Even with the extra work last night and Mariano Rivera's sore groin, they should have enough pitching to make it through the next five games.

We'll be back in a bit.

Yanks Slash Prices On Most Expensive Seats For Playoffs

On Monday the Yankees send out a press release announcing their ticket prices for the postseason. It garnered a good amount of positive press based on the fact that the prices are going to be lower than they were in 2007, which is fairly remarkable considering that took place across the street at the Old Stadium.

Without getting into specifics, almost all of the prices for the ALDS are equivalent to the regular season norms, and it escalates from there as it gets deeper into October.

Well it's nice that the Yankees have made their ticket prices for the playoffs more affordable, although you could probably argue that since they haven't registered a sellout since Opening Day, it might be more of a necessity than a courtesy. But when the playoffs roll around guess who gets the real break... the people with the most expensive seats. From the press release (emphasis and numbering mine):
Regular season ticket prices for full-season ticket licensees (non-Suites) will be replicated for the 2009 American League Division Series (i.e., a Main Level ticket that costs a full season ticket licensee $60 in the 2009 regular season will cost the same licensee $60 for the ALDS), (1) however, full-season ticket licensees (non-Suites) of $325 Field Level seats may purchase their seats for the ALDS at the lower price of $275 each.


(2) Full-season Suite licensees in the Legends Suite, Delta Sky360 Suite and Jim Beam Suite, have all already paid their Suite license fees. Accordingly, they will only be required to purchase their Suite tickets, which will range from $65-$275 per Suite ticket for the ALDS, $115-$350 per Suite ticket for the ALCS, and $150-$425 per Suite ticket for the World Series.
What that boils down to is that (1) the very best non-Legends seats are going to be less expensive for the people with the seat licenses and (2) the (mainly corporate) Suite ticket holders don't have to pay their license fee at all.

Now, considering the fact that the first bunch paid $325 for their seats all year, it doesn't make a ton of sense to suddenly drop the price for by far the most desirable games of the season. I guess that's the Yankees' way of throwing them a bone after ripping them off all this time.

As for the Legends and other Suites, their license fees make up a giant portion of the ticket price. For instance, the seats I sat in back in June had a $250 seat license and just a $150 face value, meaning that they would only cost the latter amount for the ALDS. (The ~$100 food and beverage fee would still apply, but that's optional).

We've discussed the concept and execution of the Legends Seats multiple times here and an underlying theme throughout those posts was a distaste for the way that the Yankees have bent over backwards to cater to the their richest customers, while taking for granted their core fans.

This would seem to be another example of that, but the upshot is that it's highly unlikely the seats that so often sat unoccupied early in the year will be similarly vacant when October rolls around. Furthermore, if the Yanks sell out all their seats, it might trigger the release of the supposed standing room only seats which would make playoff tickets easier to come by for non-season ticket holders. In that scenario, everyone wins.

Another intersting offshoot (for me at least) is whether or not the Yanks will lower the prices for the Legends seats next year. It would be tough to do because some of the companies signed multi-year contracts at the original prices. Something to keep an eye on this offseason...

(Full disclosure: This post in the NYT Bats Blog noticed the same policy in the press release and came to some of the same conclusions, but I had this post written before that one was published. I didn't really feel the need to go back and retroactively insert it into my post.)

Pags Interview Part 2

As we mentioned earlier this week, former Yankee third baseman Mike Pagliarulo recently agreed to an email interview with us.

Part One ran yesterday and focused on Pags' time with the Yankees from 1984-89.

Here's the conclusion, covering Pags' playing career after leaving the Yanks as well as what he's been up to in his post-playing days.

Once again, our thanks to Pags for taking the time to do this. Don't forget to check out Dugout Central, backed by Pags' Baseline Group, for more baseball coverage.

Matt Bouffard: In July of 1989 you were traded to San Diego. What was that experience like for you after having been in the Yankees organization since being drafted in 1981?

Mike Pagliarulo: I did not like leaving New York. I felt it was my home, and the place that gave me a professional baseball life through an opportunity. I’ll never forget that, and I’ll always be grateful to the Steinbrenner family and the personnel working for the Yankees. I would not have wanted a start to my career any other way.

MB: After your stint in San Diego, you found yourself with Minnesota for the 1991 season. You had a great post-season, batting .308 with a pair of home runs, including an extra inning game winner in Game 3 of the ALCS. What are your lasting memories of being part of that championship team, and playing in one of the most memorable World Series ever?

MP: Everyone from Little League to the Majors always talks about teamwork. The best companies in the world use team building characteristics during their interview process every day. Playing in that series I felt the meaning of teamwork. I mean, I felt the true essence of its existence. From trust, coordinating plans, and investigating the opposition, I realized what the true value of “team” meant. I was also aware of the elements and characteristics of skill. By the way, none of these points are illustrated or represented by data anywhere yet they are the most significant factors of skill and how baseball is played. Funny thing, I can describe it to millions of people and they’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about. But in the game of baseball today, that particular description is considered subjective because it doesn’t fit into someone’s formula.

MB: You spent the 1994 season playing in Japan with the Seibu Lions. What were your impressions of the Japanese game? Did you encounter any anti-gaijin sentiment?

MP: I appreciate the Japanese way of playing baseball but more thananything else, I respect their approach. In Japan there are no standards of play yet all the players practice basically the same technique. They are very disciplined as a culture; we could learn a lot from them. It’s no surprise they’ve won the WBC twice. They prepare better.

MB: What sort of connections did you make in Japan? How did it help in starting your Pacific Rim scouting group?

MP: The Japan teams need the same type of help the MLB teams need. The only difference is that in Japan they’re losing talent because the American teams steal their players. American teams are losing talent because they forgot how to develop players. I merely bridge the gap of cultural differences and assist in combing the needs of the two biggest baseball markets to make everyone benefit.

MB: Some Yankee fans have been critical of your group's role in theKei Igawa signing. What's your side of the story on this issue? Do you think Kei Igawa could succeed as a Major League pitcher, perhaps outside of the AL East?

MP: Let me correct you on that. Yankee fans know exactly what they’re looking at because they love researching the players. I suggest they weren’t real Yankee fans. Because in this instance, those same people don’t know how Matsui was acquired and they probably think I had nothing to do with Matsui either! I did the work and got all the information on Matsui and advised on all the other Japan negotiations. That’s a fact. It saved the Yankees about $8 million and helped developed the relationships they currently have there too. When the front office wanted little Matsui (Kaz Matsui) I was the only one who said no, and with good reason. I’ve got a good reason for all my decisions.

Then they changed the process for signing Pacific Rim players when Igawa was available: no more conference calls and no more collaborative meetings. Kei Igawa could succeed as a Major League pitcher. Keep in mind my business is consulting and players have roles determined by the various MLB teams. Igawa could play, but not for the New York Yankees. Igawa could play for a second-division type club and on the back end of the rotation. His success would not be good either. But, if you look at the talent out there and you’ve got pitchers in their forties getting extensions because the talent development isn’t like it once was, he (Igawa) can most definitely play.

The rest is history. My group has projected more than $350 million of player contract value and has never been wrong. We are the foremost leader in projecting risk of injury and talent for championship roles. I’ve got data to back all research findings for risk of injury and skill value. Assigning a player to a role is a piece of cake. Do you actually think I’d still be working if I was wrong about a player when millions of dollars are on the line? Our prediction models and research far exceeds most MLB teams because it’s all we focus on. We have to be right, so we don’t scout. We use a unique system capable of measuring performance and projecting risk. I’m really not sure with all those millions why other teams aren’t doing the same.

MB: What's going on with the Baseline Group these days? What are your plans for the future of the organization?

MP: The plan is to help support the foundation of baseball. That is done by understanding the core elements of how the game was built, and then protecting those interests: Ownership, fans, players. Leadership provides the environment. Players compete at a high level of skill to provide unique value. Fans justify that value. The focus is those areas and they’re all connected. They are the most significant part ofthe game; to think otherwise would be a mistake. The future looks very bright, and with a little help we’ll be able to purchase a minor league team and implement development as owners so that other ownership groups can benefit. The main benefit would be to create transparency for owners. I believe things are the way they are because the metrics associated with measuring value stinks. Baseball is the only industry that is unable to value the core assets of its businesses; that is a shame. The owners, fans, and players deserve more and it doesn’t start with money because everyone doesn’t have money. It begins with respect.

MB: At the Closing Ceremonies for Yankee Stadium last year, you were featured in the montage of former Yankee third basemen. Were you watching that night? What was that honor like for you?

MP: I missed the ceremonies last year, I’m sorry to say. But I have fond memories always. That day might have been the greatest but it comes second to the people I was able to share baseball and friendship with all around the Stadium. Honestly, I can see that batting cage as clear as a bell, and feel the fans along the third base line, and picture The Boss pacing around his suite; pacing because he always wanted to win so very badly. Those memories will never fade, because the fans won’t let it. I thank them for the great honor of recognizing me and keeping those thoughts in the front of my mind. I’m reminded today everywhere I travel by New York Yankee fans. It’s the greatest feeling.

MB: What's it like being a former Yankee living outside Boston these days? You get any flack for that? Didn't you grow up as a Yankee fan, and if so, how did that come about, and what was it like to be a Yankee fan in Medford during the 1970s?

MP: My dad was the biggest Billy Martin fan ever. We grew up in Boston and everyone was a Red Sox fan except him. When I was a kid I always thought my father was right except when it came to the Yankees. Well, after my first big league spring training where I met the big league guys for the first time; I said, “Dad you were right again!” The Yankee organization was built on class and respect and everyone I met there was the same way. Back in Boston I still caught heat, but nobody gives out that much crap without being scared!


Because everyone loves pie, here is a graphical representation of the Yankees Wins Above Replacement via UmpBump. Dig in!

Quick thoughts:
  • Interesting that Phil Hughes checks in slightly higher than Joba Chamberlain (and Mariano Rivera), isn't it?

  • I didn't think CC would be more valuable than Teixeira, did you?

  • Even if you adjust for the time that A-Rod missed to begin the season, he still wouldn't be as productive as Jeter.

  • If you project How is Chien Ming Wang OVER replacement?

The Mascot Mystery Has Been Solved

Pssst. Fackers... Sorry, didn't mean to wake you, but I have some important news.

An anonymous commenter yesterday cracked the puzzle and identified the mysterious blue bastard in the stickball video. It's the mascot for the Tampa Yankees and it's name is simply "Blue".
Some other "interesting" "facts":
DOB: July, 4th 1923
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Weight: 401 LB
Favorite Movie: 61* and Pride of the Yankees
Favorite Music: Plutonian classic rock
Favorite Food: Scooter Dogs
Favorite Drink: Saturn Soda
Favorite Song: Take Me Out To The Ballgame
Favorite Color: Yankees blue
Favorite Player: Derek Jeter
Some more pertinent information:
Q: What is Blue?
A: He is an alien from Pluto who loves the Tampa Yankees

Q: Why can't Blue talk?
A: Although Blue is a huge Tampa Yankees fan, he has not mastered the languages on Earth

Q: Can Blue play baseball?
A: He was a 2004 Plutonian All-Star shortstop back at home but would rather watch and cheer on the Yanks now. (His big feet slow him down)

Q: What does Blue do when there is no game?
A: Blue visits children in the hospital, goes to schools, and loves to play catch!

Q: Where does Blue live?
A: In a secret hide-away under the stadium
Minor league teams need to do all they can to cater to families and such so I can't say I have much of a problem with this.

Okay, that is all. You can go back to sleep now.

Yanks Roll On

About the worst thing that can be said about tonight's game is the spot starter Chad Gaudin failed to make it through four innings of work. That's a short outing even when taking the Canadian exchange rate into account. Still, that's not a whole lot to complain about, and even with the Red Sox beating the Rays tonight, the Yankees didn't lose even a metric game off their AL East lead and reduced their magic number to 22.

Pretty much everything else was gravy for the Yankees tonight. They had a 4-0 lead before a Blue Jay even picked up a bat. When the Jays cut the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth, the Yankees responded with two more in the top of the fifth. When the Jays pulled within two again later on, the Yanks answered with their second ninth inning rally in as many nights, putting things out of reach and making the continued unavailability of Mariano Rivera much easier to stomach.

Jorge Posada was the offensive star of the night, going 4 for 5 with a double, a homer, and four RBI. The longball was his 20th of the year, making him the seventh Yankee to reach that mark this season. Too bad the pitchers all hate throwing to him.

Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera had two hits apiece, with A-Rod adding a homer of his own and a sexual assault on an unsuspecting Toronto police officer. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui both drew a pair of free passes, and Damon, Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, and Matsui all scored twice.

Gaudin allowed four hits, three walks, two hit batsmen, and three runs in 3.2 innings of work, leaving the bullpen to throw 5.1 innings with Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre pitching two of the next three games, followed by a day-night double dip on Monday. For tonight at least though, the pen was up to the task, allowing just four baserunners and two runs - only one earned - on the night, while whiffing eight Jays.

Both runs were charged to Alfredo Aceves, who recorded three of his seven outs via the K. David Robertson's only baserunner allowed came on an HBP and he added two more Ks to his already impressive total. Brian Bruney worked a perfect eighth inning before walking the leadoff man in the ninth, and Damaso Marte continued his impressive post-DL run by sitting down three in a row - two by strikeout - to finish it out.

It was another satisfying night in Yankeeland. They'll look to keep it going tomorrow night with Joba Chamberlain on the mound. We'll see you in the morning to take you through to the final holiday weekend of the summer.